Imagining the Faith of Lady Gaga
a theopoetic exploration for religious and non-religious alike
"I am a Christian woman, and what I do know about Christianity
is that we bear no prejudice, and everybody is welcome."
-- Lady Gaga
There's only three men I'm gonna serve my whole life,
my daddy and Nebraska and Jesus Christ.
-- Lady Gaga (Lyrics to Yoü and I)
enjoy this page to consider the kinds of "faith" to which Lady Gaga points,
use your own mind and heart to develop your own point of view.
God and Lady Gaga
I do not know Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. I know the persona of Lady Gaga that I, along with millions of others, have in our imaginations.
By all accounts Stefani is a woman of faith, nourished by the Catholic tradition, and I'm sure her image of God originates in part from her Catholic upbringing. But I can't speak for her. I'd simply like to share an image of the kind of God her persona inspires in me and others. (Stefani, if you are reading this and might like to respond, please do.) It might go something like this:
An Imagined Gaga Creed
We can't put a frame around God and hold God in a box. Or in a church. Or even in a wafer of bread.
God is the soul of the universe. God's body is the universe itself and the animating spirit of the divine soul is found in the world itself, including in churches and wafers and especially in kindness. The spiirit can also be found vibrant theatrical performances where we grow in emotional wisdom.
God is not simply active in the world, God is receptive of the world. God is enriched by whatever is counter, original, spare, strange, fickle, freckled, swift, slow, sweet, sour, adazzle or dim. God loves differences.
God doesn't mind a little order in the world, but God also inspires the titans who revolt against orders that are oppressive or have grown stale. God is about novelty.
If we live in God, we know that we are "born this way" but also that we are being born every day, in how we respond to circumstances. We are always born again, moment by moment.
God is very, very good, but God is not a goody two shoes, a straight laced victorian, a prude. God knows that love is always "a little oblivious as to [conventional] morals." (Whitehead) God knows and loves the reality of play, of humor.
The universe does, too. It is an evolving network of inter-performances, in the context of which each individual entity expresses its uniqueness. Some of the performances are atomic and molecular, some stellar and galactic, some planetary and terrestrial, some animal and plant and human.
No two entities share exactly the same actual world, even as though each is present in all the others.
It's good to be kind and brave. And it's good to use all your talent, as best you can, to help create world that is creative, compassionate, participatory, outlandish, gentle, good for the earth, and good for people, with no one left behind. Such a world needs emotional intelligence. That's one of the purposes of art. It is to help us hear the stories and feelings of others, to grow in empathy.
It's good to be exuberant, vibrant, along the way. To take risks, including the risk of failure. The generous heart who embraces the whole; the very one revealed but not exhausted in Jesus, is a love of life and vitality. Bejewelled and bedazzled.
-- Jay McDaniel
Gaga's Music and Performances
They are all about the Emotional Depth and Range that
can be part of a kinder and braver society. They
explore the variations and mututions
of the spiritual alphabet.
Lady Gaga and Pope Francis
"In an American context where the media equates religion with social conservatism, Lady Gaga represents a welcome, non-fundamentalist Christianity. She is the closest pop culture version, in values if not tone, to her fellow Catholic, Pope Francis. She champions Christian values not of exclusion and discrimination but of empowerment, grace and self-acceptance." (The Provocative Faith of Lady Gaga, Washington Post, Guthrie Graves-Fitzimmons, Feb. 5, 2017)
"Lady Gaga’s faith confounds a popular narrative of religion in America. She is considered both a practicing Christian and a passionate advocate for progressive values. She simply doesn’t fit in the controlling narrative, endorsed by both the secular left and the religious right, that relegates religion be the sole domain of social conservatism." (The Provocative Faith of Lady Gaga, Washington Post, Guthrie Graves-Fitzimmons, Feb. 5, 2017)
Lady Gaga has 39.2 followers on Twitter. Donald Trump has 20 million. And she has a social vision and Christian sensibility that far exceeds Trump's.
A Star is Born
"O God help me to believe the truth about myself
no matter how beautiful it is!"
-- Macrina Wiederkehr in Seasons of Your Heart
"There's a wonderful moment in the film when Jack's brother Bobby describes the role of the artist. Music, he says, is just "12 notes and then the octave repeats. It's the same story told over and over. All the artist can offer the world is how he sees those 12 notes." True enough, we've seen pieces of this story before. But we still wonder until the end whether Jack and Ally can create their own variations on those 12 notes, expressing the truth about themselves, no matter how beautiful it is."
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, review of A Star is Born
Growing in Emotional Intelligence
A Sample of the Moods we can Know
New York, New York
The Sound of Music
Born this Way
With Elton John
Born this Way
Gaga's Historical Precedents
While the picketer may have deemed her boundary-blurring music as an especially pernicious development of secular modernity and cultural decline, it would only be because he hasn’t studied his history. “Gender-bending and queerness have been present in Christian art and theology since the beginning,” says Mark D. Jordan, a Distinguished University Professor of Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center at Washington University in St. Louis, which publishes this journal. The virgin martyrs, for example, were described as displaying a “male strength” in defending their faith and chastity until death itself. St. Sebastian was, for centuries, painted as “young, willowy, and lightly rouged.” While these images are not explicitly sexual, they go quite a ways in showing that the male-female binary that we think of as “traditional” is not so very rigid after all, an idea that Gaga runs with, particularly when she’s performing as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone. Even more importantly, the elaborate stagecraft that goes into Lady Gaga’s shows and videos picks up on a pageantry that is strong within Catholicism. “The liturgy is not just the words of the hymns,” Jordan says. “They include the entire staged performance on the altar. There are the priests swinging censers, the altar boys, and they all have these choreographed rituals they perform for the congregation. The act of worship itself is fundamentally material, all the way down to the Eucharist.
It is easy to dismiss Gaga’s use of Catholic tropes as mere entertainment. Like Madonna, “the Material Girl” before her, Gaga plays on the recognized symbols of Christianity, a technique that could be for effect, separated from spirituality or belief. In the new book Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal, J. Jack Halberstam outlines “gaga feminism,” Halberstam’s own philosophy, that uses Gaga as a symbol for an aesthetic and political way of living that is queer, anarchic, liberated, and outrageous. In the book’s closing manifesto, in Point 4 on “creative nonbelieving,” Halberstam claims that one cannot be the gender-bending feminist of the title’s icon and also be religious:
When it comes to gender norms and sexual mores, religion really is the root of all evil, and that cuts across many religions. This is a bit of a problem for a branch of feminism that takes Lady Gaga as a kind of mascot. She is, of course, like Madonna, thoroughly saturated in Catholic imagery and narratives of sacrifice, virgin/whore oppositions, and Judas-like betrayals. All the more reason, then, for this feminist, this gaga feminist, to flag some of the differences between Lady Gaga and gaga feminism from the get-go—religion is a no-no and God has got to go-go.
It’s a shame Halberstam rejects the complexities of Lady Gaga’s fascinating and ambiguous relationship with Catholicism. It’s also a little bit ironic, given that Point 3 in the manifesto was to “think counterintuitively.” When we do, we find that the Gaga persona is deeply embedded in a vibrant, queer, theological tradition that is as old as Christianity itself, and as relevant now as ever."
-- Idol Worship: The Beatitudes of Lady GagaBy Xarissa Holdaway | February 19, 2013/ Religion and Politics.org
Lady Gaga visits Harvard